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It’s OK to make the phone call

In 2012, a woman was arrested by Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office deputies after a complaint was called in to investigators. The caller alleged the woman had taken advantage of an elderly man with diminished mental capacity by stealing his checkbook and writing fraudulent checks. Other items belonging to the victim were said to have been sold off by the woman.

The caller in this case was the son of the elderly man. The woman arrested for the crimes was not a stranger or a random thief. Instead, she was a friend of the family, and caretaker to her elderly victim.

This is elder abuse. It comes in many forms, in this case, it’s exploitation, as the caretaker took the man’s money for her own benefit. Elder abuse can be physical abuse. It can be emotional and verbal abuse — threatening words that make an elderly person cower. It can also be neglect, not being fed, given medication or taken to doctors’ appointments. Any of these things can and sometimes do happen at the hands of those in a position of power, and those in the position of power can be, in this case, a family friend; it can be someone employed to caretake; it can be a child of the victim.

Statistics say that 1 in 10 elderly people are abused in such a fashion. Likely, the statistics are much higher than that because pride can prevent a person from reporting this type of abuse. Or, if a family member is the one doing the abusing, the need to keep family matters private could prevent another family member from reporting it to authorities.

In some cases, the elderly cannot fend for themselves, and it’s up to the people who know and care about them to make sure they are not victims of abuse, and if they are, report abuse to the proper authorities.

No one should live in fear and no person should be coerced into giving away what is rightfully theirs. If you believe an elderly person is being exploited, abused or neglected, there are people there to help in law enforcement and social services. When it comes to protecting the most vulnerable among us, it’s OK to make the phone call.